Have you ever gone into a restaurant, promised yourself you wouldn’t indulge, and somehow three hours later you think, “what the hell just happened?”. That’s the kind of restaurant Assiette is, located in Surry Hills.
My friends and I decided to go there to celebrate a joint birthday. Assiette was certainly different from our normal fare of pho, cheap Japanese food or pub grub. We even had to ditch the thongs and singlets for this one.
I have this weird complex with Surry Hills. It’s far from where I live, it’s full of hipsters and pretentious wankers and expensive restaurants. Truth be told, it is a fantastic area with a bustling food culture. I really wish I went there more often. We took two cars and didn’t have trouble finding street parking. When you walk into the restaurant, its got an intimate feel and not too posh for us common folk.
Hands down, Assiette is the fanciest restaurant I’ve ever been to. Entrees are $26, mains are $39, sides $9 and oysters at $4 each.
We all sat down, took one look at the menu and my mate says, “right, we’re all getting the degustation,” for $105. And that’s how that happened. You can have matching wines for $170.
First up, we had the seasonal oyster with Vietnamese dressing and baby coriander. When I eat raw oysters, I like them to have some flavourings and garnishes, but they shouldn’t overpower the natural texture of the oyster. It was a fantastic way to start.
When you can’t even pronounce some of the dishes on the menu, or have no idea what they are, you could feel a bit out of your depth. But at Assiette, the staff are more than happy to explain what they are, and clearly take pride in their food. Our next dish was the Kataifi quail egg with mushrooms, duck consommé and crispy pig’s ears. Kataifi is a Middle Eastern pastry soaked in syrup, while a consommé is a clear soup, similar to a stock or broth. I loved the crispy pig’s ears which had a great crunch and the consommé was bursting with flavours. The egg was cooked just how I like it, runny and soft. I really loved the presentation of each dish at Assiette. The combination of placement, colour and garnishes was flawless.
Our third dish was the sashimi tuna with crustacea cream, pickled octopus, hibiscus and almonds. One of my favourite dishes of the night, the tuna was fresh and honestly melted when you ate it.
Mackerel is one of my favourite fish, because it is salty (but not too salty), has a beautifully crispy skin when seared and is very juicy. I was pretty happy to see our next dish which was a seared mackerel with avruga, cucumber, cauliflower puree and dill emulsion. I loved all of the elements of this dish except the dill emulsion which was quite overpowering. The puree was creamy but not too heavy and when combined with the mackerel, it was freakin’ magic.
I really loved the next dish of ballotine of quail and foie gras with croustillant of confit leg, braised salsify, walnuts and date puree. The feeling of when you’re eating something so amazing and you don’t want it to end, is something I really can’t describe. First world right? The ballotine was an interesting creation and wasn’t too dry thanks to the puree and sauce of the confit leg. Just a joy to eat.
I’ve never had venison so I was really keen to try the roasted denver leg of venison with boudin noir, dauphinoise potato and heirloom carrots. Each dish at Assiette perfectly complimented each other and the combination meant the result was an assortment of delicious flavours. The venison was cooked medium rare, which is how I like my red meat. Again, flawless presentation and a fitting finale to the savoury dishes.
The pre-dessert of pineapple and lychee compote with a coconut foam was intriguing. It was such a great combo and I could’ve eaten a larger portion.
For many of the party, the dessert was by far the resounding favourite of the night. Assiette served us their strawberry and cherry salad with yoghurt sorbet, vanilla doughnut and mint emulsion. I must admit, I’m not an overly huge fan of dessert but this was really something else. You’d move from one ingredient to another, the flavours dancing on your tongue. A great end.
Whether you choose the degustation or a la carte menu, Assiette serves beautiful food. You might baulk at the price, but it is certainly worth it. Personally, the degustation is king. The feeling of knowing more and more dishes will be served is such a rush.
Have you been? Would love to know what you thought.